Anime Review: Getter Robo Arc – Passionate but Underwhelming

The one chosen by Getter
shall never escape his destiny!
After over a decade, the Getter Robo franchise finally received a new anime – and that is the adaptation of the final manga in the Ken Ishikawa’s Getter Saga: Getter Robo Arc. The manga that was unfortunately left unfinished by the author due to Ishikawa-sensei’s unexpected and regretful passing. All the fans have always wanted a continuation, or rather, a conclusion. So when Getter Arc anime was announced, the mecha fanbase and Getter fanbase all but exploded in a torrent of hype, surprise and of course, hesitation. They are both excited that they can see more Getter action on screen but also worry that the adaptation won’t meet the super tall bar of expectation.

Getter Robo Arc follows three Getter pilots (duh!), but none of them is the pilots we all familiar with. It’s not Ryoma, it’s not Hayato, it’s not Benkei or Musashi, and not Go, Sho, Gai either. The main character – Takuma Nagare – yes, you guessed it, is Ryoma’s son. The 2nd pilot is Kamui Sho, a half-human half-dinosaur pilot, and finally, our chonky pilot Baku Yamagishi. The team has to face an enemy seemingly from the future, with the ability to appear whenever, wherever they like as well as wielding mysterious and immense power that human can’t comprehend. The battle took them through space and time – into the future and across the galaxy. Eventually, they arrived at the inevitable future that is a universe dominated by Getter Emperor.

While sharing the same name, the same characters and the same premise as the manga, the Arc anime’s history is an amalgamation between many Getter media – such as Armageddon, the Getter Robo Go manga, and some others. It’s both a nod to the Getters OVA as well as the legacy of Ken Ishikawa. It’s very much a Hail Mary to attempt to give Getter fans some closure for the Getter Saga. While the intention is noble, the execution isn’t the best. There are various hurdles that the series ran into and didn’t really manage to overcome. However, the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and Getter Arc did deliver some core values that the franchise is loved for.

The anime pretty much follow the same beginning as the anime – with Takuma and Baku finding their way to the scrapyard to wait for a Getter D2. Then the series deviated from the midway point with new incorporations from other series. The core plot is still very much the same – with enemies from the future arriving to invade the Getter Institute, and Takuma, Kamui and Baku sortieing in the Arc to fight them off. And they decided to bring the fight to the enemy…in the future. There they encounter a galaxies burning with Getter Ray and an intergalactic war that human was waged in the name of Getter against the entire universe. The cosmic horror led Takuma to realize that this future is an inevitable future that Getter will lead humanity to. However, following the spirit of his father, Takuma decided to blaze his own paths instead of waiting for a far-flung future.

The main events of the Arc anime followed closely with the manga, but much faster since the series only got greenlit for 12 episodes. Even so, they managed to cram a lot in there – but sadly not a lot of them are good bits. And they pulled a few plot device to accelerate the story forward. The return of Go in the Black Shin Getter is an anime original – partly to follow the trend that each Getter needs to have a black version of itself (started by the toy companies and Armageddon). Go’s return was a very surprising Easter Egg and a welcome one, until he sorta outstayed his welcome and did even more than we thought he would. This Go is a manga Go version instead of the Armageddon or SvN, but the voice actor is from SvN. And he not only pulled a Deus Ex Machina but also acted as a convenient plot device – going around the world defending every location the enemies invade while Getter Arc face only one of them. And he also appeared in the nick of time to help the team reach the future. While it’s perfectly logical and impressive to see Shin Getter kicking butts all day everyday, its role was pretty intrusive in the story and made the main Arc team looks like they were just along for the ride.

However, there are some pretty nice bits like the return of Shou – pilot of the Getter Sho. She became a military official and returned to aid the Getter Lab (albeit not much). And the fact that she kept her Get Machine was pretty badass – kinda like a super doped up private jet. Her appearance wasn’t in the manga but the anime included her (along with her American husband Schwarz) to tie in the other entries. Her role in the anime was pretty minimal and was perfect as an Easter Egg.

And now to the main story itself – Getter Robo has always been about two aspect: the inevitable power of evolution and Getter Ray to lead to the ultimate future where Getter reigns supreme, but also the indomitable spirit of humanity resistance against the unchangeable destiny. This was shown much clearer at the end of the series, when they attempted to patch Ken Ishikawa’s cliffhanger manga ending. Arc still confronts Kamui and BUG at the end, but how we get there and its ultimate conclusion is different from the manga. In the anime, Takuma and Baku was separated from Kamui and was “drifting” to a realm controlled by Getter Emperor. There, they were shown the will of Getter – the destiny that Getter has “chosen” for humanity with its power. Baku – as usual – was reserved and hesitant, however, Takuma – inherited the boiling blood of Ryoma himself – is prepared to fight back and rise up against the hands of fate. Even if he has to take on the most powerful entity in the entire universe – a being that can bend space and time, and possibly the multiverse. Takuma Nagare is one of many people that “represents” the human spirit that we often see in Getter-1’s pilot – such as Go and Ryoma. For Getter-2’s pilots – like Hayato and Kamui – they are more grounded in reality and are more accepting of Getter’s inevitability. But their reaction to it is different. Hayato treat it as an unchangeable cosmic force and tries to learn from it, but Kamui – due to his origins – wanted to snuff out Getter.

Of course Hayato’s viewpoint seems more reasonable and more in-line with the general populace if they ever learn about Getter’s will. But it just take one person to go against the current to create a ripple – and that has always been the Getter-1 pilot. Ryoma’s famous line of “If going along is destiny, then going against destiny is also destiny itself.” The paradox prove that you can decide your own destiny, and the hot red spirit of Getter-1 pilot will always inspire others to do the same. The ending of Arc is also not entirely conclusive, but rather a “confirmation” about the message of Getter. It showed that the fight against Getter Emperor vision is still raging on, and us humans will keep resisting and keep trying to take control of our own future. Kamui being defeated but later freed also opened up a new direction for him. The fact that he’s part dinosaur and how the dino people were portrayed in the series show that there is indeed a way for both to cooperate, unlike the previous entries where it’s either human or the other.

The major events of the anime is the same as the manga, and started to deviate just before the team’s return to the present from the future. And from that led to the “conclusion” of Arc. Kamui obtained BUG and went head to head with Arc and defeated it. But a slumbering Dragon awakened and showed BUG the true power of the Getter Ray. Then the war between human and the dinosaurs broke out again and Kamui was imprisoned. But Takuma and Baku busted him out with Arc and together they faced the Getter Robo Ten (Heaven) – the next steps to the future with Emperor, and then the series ended there. This didn’t put a definitive conclusion to the story, but rather confirm the story’s message: the struggle against fate and evolution never stop, and you have the power to determine your fate. Be the change instead of going with the flow even if the flow is some…universal intention. This corresponds to the message sent in Ishikawa’s previous manga in the Getter Saga. In the manga, he wasn’t able to deliver the message conclusively, but with the anime, they were able to do it to pay respect to one of the greatest mangakas of all time.

For characters, they are pretty much carbon copies from the manga. Takuma is truly Ryoma’s son, but with a bit more tact (maybe he got it from the mother), Kamui is still the stoic, strict type and Baku is the optimistic big guy. Takuma is your residential insane hot-blooded pilot with a pretty big mouth, when when it comes down to it, he could think up some pretty impressive stuff – like the parade in the Dinosaur empire.

Kamui is the first half-human – half-dinosaur character introduced in the series. His origins and upbringing really raise a lot of deep question about pretty much everything. Was the Dinosuar truly reprehensible? or are they just victims of Getter’s whims. What the Dinosaurians have done prior to the events in the series definitely aren’t excusable. They did some very bad things. But they were stripped off of their homeland and forced to go exiled underneath the magma. But then, their current leader is obviously after world domination. Both sides believe they are entitled to the Earth. Kamui is torn between the two sides. His dino’s blood and heritage from the King compel him to serve his “people”, but his heart lies with his mother – a human. After spending time with Hayato and other humans, meeting Takuma and Baku, he formed a sort of camaraderie with them – the sort of link only Getter pilots share. he is definitely the moral conundrum of the series, and it’s great to see his character developed more in the anime compared to the manga. He didn’t have anything against human per se, just against the whims of Getter – which caused any species to go extinct unless they are chosen.

Baku is your typical Getter-3 pilot, but with even less development than even Gai from Armageddon. He’s straightforward, brave and is a big guy. That’s about it.

Another character that really caught our eyes is Hayato. From the manga, Hayato was shown to have aged and became more like Dr. Saotome. The part about him sacrificing his acquaintances to defuse the giant bombs was also kept and shown that he – like many others – have sacrificed everything in order to protect the Earth. His conversation with Sho reminiscing about the past when he was still able to pilot the Getter shown how much he has gone through. And even at his age, he still kicks a lot of ass like in Go. Truly the only people that can pilot the Getters are either superhuman or the insane.

Now we get to the most painful part of the anime: the animation. Saying it was rough is an understatement. While the artstyle and aesthetic still retain that gritty feel like SvN and Armageddon (but lighter), the quality of the animation isn’t very high. The 2D is super stiff and rough at many times, and the CG is only acceptable. The opening animation received a lot of criticism when it was revealed with many still frames and fast forwarded CG. The CG is very “mechanically” stiff rather than the usual organic movement in other Getter media. To be fair, it’s not the worst thing, but it makes the Getters feel less “sentient” which was pretty much the point of the show.

However, there are many good things as well. The Shin Getter Tarak was pretty badass, although Shin Getter kicking butts isn’t news to any Getter fans. The Getter Emperor scene was majestic and awesome, it carries the weight of planets colliding and combining into something much greater than anyone’s imagination. And Getter Emperor has never appeared on screen in robot stage and a combining scene has always been what fans wanted. However, the anime used the Soul of Chogokin design with more spiky details and panel-line details. It’s not a design I’d pick but it’s understandable since they definitely want to reuse the existing 3D asset from the toy department and the combining engineering as well. No matter, it was pretty awesome so I’ll welcome it.

The 2D animation was really mediocre, and the 3DCG is only good at certain times and bad at others. But at least the scenes has that spirit of Getter behind it and it portray the grand scale of the Getter Intergalactic War very well, plus the fact that the anime is probably a passion project with very limited budget, I can give this one a pass, but it doesn’t hold up very well and certainly won’t in the future.

The voice-acting and music department was actually the highlight of the series. Who would think that Yuuma Uchida, who acted as such a sweet guy in Macross Delta, can deliver such hot-blooded lines with so much energy and rage? Voice actors are certainly in a league of their own with their emotion delivery. Kamui’s actor – Arimaro Mukaino – was also very talented. His voice as Kamui was calm, collected but with an undertone of indignant underneath. Every line of his feels like there’s a volcano about to erupt underneath, and his battle scream was amazing. Baku’s voice actor Kazuhiro was also very suitable for the role. Uchida Naoya is still rocking it with Hayato. He does an older Hayato like it’s a walk in the park and he sounds amazing. For all mecha animes, there’s not many that we can criticize the voice acting – aside from some very few. The job has evolved so much that even small series has pretty amazing voice acting.

The songs of the series was sung by none other than Jam Project – who have been singing Getter, Mazinger, and SRW songs since the longest time. The opening – Bloodlines – is very similar to Dragon from New Getter. The songs isn’t balls to the walls outright like HEATS or Storm, but more of an earworm when you listen to it long enough. The lyrics is all about the predestined fate of the Getter pilots and that you must rise to the occasion when your blood calls for it. This applies for both Takuma and Kamui because they both have to pick the side of their bloodline – their heritage. Takuma has to pick humanity, and Kamui has to shoulder the Dinosaur’s. The ending songs are what surprised us the most. We certainly didn’t expect the return of HEATS, STORM, DRAGON – and a new version of them at that. A modernization of the songs deliver both nostalgia as well as a new experience. I reckon they spent a ton of the budget on JAM to re-record all these songs.

Overall, the Getter Arc anime is truly a passion project aimed to provide the open saga of Getter a more “conclusive” message. It’s not about everyone getting a happy ending or defeating the threat and end the battle, but it’s about showing that indomitable spirit of human strength that can overcome everything – even the will of the universe itself. The quality of the production is quite lop-sided where the audio is leagues better than the visual we got. But they did what they could with the resources they have at hand. For Getter fans, this is a nice tribute to Ken Ishikawa. For others, it’s a mediocre mecha series with some of the coolest moments in the genre.

Check out more recommendations: